The export journey for Australian mattress and bedding, A.H. Beard, began less than five years ago with an approach from Emma Wang, a principal of Shanghai Green, a leading homewares group in China.
Ms Wang convinced the A.H. Beard family to form a partnership with a view to selling its mattresses and bedding products in China. It was an offer too good to refuse for the Australian company.
The first shipments were sent in 2013 and since then A.H. Beard has opened 34 branded stores across the mainland – with ambitious plans to increase that number to 100 by 2023.
The company has managed to double its revenue every year since its push into the Chinese market. With 7000 local manufacturers, China is the world’s biggest bedding market, worth $7.4 billion a year.
A.H. Beard is the first international company to market handcrafted mattresses in China. The entry price point for an A.H. Beard mattress is $4000. It’s top of the range, Signature series hand sewn king size mattresses sell for A$75,000.
Each handcrafted bed is certified Australian Made and includes the signature of the bed’s Australian master craftsman. “And yes, we sell quite a few at that price,” A.H. Beard CEO Tony Pearson told Dynamic Export.
“Literally everything is hand sewn, which is very rare these days. Each (Signature) mattress takes 10 days to make and only four people in the company are allowed to touch those beds.”
One of those people is master craftsman Neville Middleton, who has been with the firm for 35 years. Mr Middleton pays meticulous attention to detail to ensure each bed is flawless when it leaves the factory floor.
Signature beds are filled with top quality natural fibres including cashmere, mohair, alpaca and fine merino wool. “Quality and service have been the keys to company’s great success,” said Mr Pearson. “This is what differentiates us from our competitors.”
A.H. Beard director Allyn Beard, who is also deputy chairman of the Australian Made, Australian Grown campaign, said the company is now shipping one 40ft container to China every day.
The hand crafted beds are an aspirational purchase for China’s growing affluent middle class, many of whom are shunning Chinese made products in preference to high end global products.
“The Chinese have more trust in products certified Australian Made,” Mr Beard said. “They want a hand crafted product with high quality components and natural materials.”
In addition, China now has “educated” consumers who are aware of the health benefits in buying a quality mattress. “They have a ferocious appetite for health and the importance of sleep,” adds Mr Beard.
To celebrate the partnership, the A.H. Beard family recently welcomed franchisees from Shanghai Green China to its Sydney manufacturing facilities at Padstow, in outer Sydney.
A.H. Beard chairman and managing director Garry Beard, who has been in the bedding industry for over 35 years, said the company is aiming to become the number one prestige brand in bedding in China in the next few years.
“From being a leader in the Australian market we now see ourselves as being a major world leader in bedding,” he said. “The future growth lies with our Chinese partners with the aiming of supplying more international markets in coming years.”
The company now has its sights firmly set on the huge South Korean market and other key Asian markets.
A.H. Beard has come a long way since Enoch William Beard first opened the doors in 1899 with an offering of handmade straw palliasses and tufted horsehair mattresses. It is now in its fourth generation of company ownership, and has sold more than two million handcrafted beds and employs 400 staff in 11 factories across Australia and New Zealand.
In 2012 A.H. Beard was inducted into Family Business Australia’s Hall of Fame.
From Dynamic Export